A generally applicable lightweight method for calculating a value structure for tools and services in bioinformatics infrastructure projects

Brief Bioinform. 2019 Jul 19;20(4):1215-1221. doi: 10.1093/bib/bbx140.


Sustainable noncommercial bioinformatics infrastructures are a prerequisite to use and take advantage of the potential of big data analysis for research and economy. Consequently, funders, universities and institutes as well as users ask for a transparent value model for the tools and services offered. In this article, a generally applicable lightweight method is described by which bioinformatics infrastructure projects can estimate the value of tools and services offered without determining exactly the total costs of ownership. Five representative scenarios for value estimation from a rough estimation to a detailed breakdown of costs are presented. To account for the diversity in bioinformatics applications and services, the notion of service-specific 'service provision units' is introduced together with the factors influencing them and the main underlying assumptions for these 'value influencing factors'. Special attention is given on how to handle personnel costs and indirect costs such as electricity. Four examples are presented for the calculation of the value of tools and services provided by the German Network for Bioinformatics Infrastructure (de.NBI): one for tool usage, one for (Web-based) database analyses, one for consulting services and one for bioinformatics training events. Finally, from the discussed values, the costs of direct funding and the costs of payment of services by funded projects are calculated and compared.

Keywords: bioinformatics infrastructure; cost factors; de.NBI; service provision unit; value estimation for offered tools and services; value-influencing factors.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Big Data / economics
  • Computational Biology / economics*
  • Computational Biology / education
  • Computational Biology / methods*
  • Consultants
  • Costs and Cost Analysis
  • Facility Design and Construction / economics
  • Humans
  • Information Services / economics
  • Models, Economic
  • Software / economics*
  • Web Browser / economics